Treat your inner child with “Waffles + Mochi” and Michelle Obama

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A food series starring anthropomorphic puppets learning about the culture, science and use of cooking ingredients with Michelle Obama is even more amazing than it sounds. I admit I was a bit skeptical of how entertaining I would find a kids’ show with puppets, but considering “Waffles + Mochi” combines some of my favorite things – food, travel and Michelle Obama – I knew I had to give it a watch. When it turned out my friends had already tuned into the first few episodes, I joined them and we binged the season in its glorious entirety, hungry for more. 

Season one of “Waffles + Mochi” released on Netflix on March 16, helmed by the Obamas’ production company, Higher Ground. The titular Waffles – apparently, her mother is a Yeti and her father a frozen waffle – lives with best friend Mochi in the “land of frozen foods,” hoping for the day they will get to indulge in real cooking and food. They take the chance to travel to a friendly neighborhood grocery store in New York, run by none other than Obama – known to the puppet friends as “Mrs. O” – accompanied by hoity-toity Busy the bee. After accepting jobs at the grocery, Waffles and Mochi earn food badges by learning about the variety of ingredients they sell at the store, such as tomatoes, eggs, potatoes and corn, as well as other staples utilized in daily cooking, such as salt, rice and water.  

The duo travel the world via magical shopping cart to hear from those versed in these ingredients: international chefs, local farmers and vendors. There are even guest stars from beyond the food world, such as actor Tan France from “Queer Eye” and artist Common. These cameos might go over a child’s head, yet they and the other guests do a good job of contributing to the diverse, charming tone of the show. Traveling to the locations that have a cultural significance to the particular ingredient and the feature of young children from around the world talking about the different foods is an important aspect of “Waffles + Mochi.” The show has an appreciation for the foods it highlights and how they are used, and respects the different ways they are used by going straight to the sources and not appropriating the foods. 

Speaking of diverse, “Waffles + Mochi” does a good job featuring those from communities usually underrepresented in media, especially for kids. In the first episode, Waffles, Mochi and viewers are introduced to a pizza place in which all the employees are Deaf and communicate through ASL. In another episode, Waffles and Mochi visit a kitchen that autistic children and their families visit to make tortellini together. The representation doesn’t seem tokenistic or performative, allowing children to learn more about other people’s experiences through these encounters and from their others around the globe.  

Furthermore, the show offers further resources and efforts online with Partnership with America for “Pass the Love,” an initiative that seeks to provide “a million meals to families in need with fresh, delicious recipes and ingredients.” This discussion of food equity is important to expose children to, and I can see how the show can incorporate other activist issues, such as sustainability and social justice. 

The show’s cinematography is vibrant and colorful without being cheesy, bringing life to the characters and those they interact with. “Waffles + Mochi” doesn’t talk down to its viewers, young at heart or actually young, presenting the information in a digestible, interesting manner. My friends and I certainly learned more than we expected. I think it’s important to acknowledge just because something is made for children doesn’t discount its quality. In fact, we should normalize having high-quality media for children, since they are so impressionable. 

One of my friends, Shreya Sreenivas, was so inspired that she made the gazpacho that chef José Andrés made in one of the episodes. The show has the recipes on their website as well, complete with the cute titles like “gratatouille.” 

One of my friends, Shreya Sreenivas, was so inspired that she made the gazpacho that chef José Andrés made in one of the episodes. The show has the recipes on their website as well, complete with the cute titles like “gratatouille.” 

“Making the gazpacho was easy enough, just stick it all in the blender and blitz,” Sreenivas, a sixth-semester physiology and neurobiology and computer science major, said. “I had never had gazpacho before so I didn’t really know how it was supposed to taste. I was actually kind of worried that it would just taste like raw vegetables but there was a really nice balance between spice, tart and freshness.” 

I was excited to try Sreenivas’ creation, which reminded me of a smooth salsa. She improvised from the recipe Andrés presented in the show, taking a few pointers from our favorite food friends to be creative with our cooking. 

“I personally added some green chilis for a kick since I like it spicy and since I couldn’t find sherry vinegar, I mixed one part sherry cooking wine with 3/4 part red wine vinegar and it tasted amazing!” Sreenivas said. “Overall it was a great recipe and I had a lot of fun making it!” 

Viewers of all ages and interests should check out this fun, educational and socially-aware series. From the first few minutes, you can tell the love and attention that went into making such a quality production. The 25-minute runtime of each episode is short enough for a quick bite during your day, or to watch a slew of a few. “Waffles + Mochi” is a treat for the eyes, mind and child at heart. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 

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